We are having a national moment. We have our worst-ever president and his spineless, corrupt congress. We have an Attorney General who should be up on charges. We’re in the middle of an oncoming election and the Democrats seem more inclined to tear pieces off each other than cultivate voters. Our moment has so far lasted three years — a long, terrible, tormented national “moment” and if we aren’t careful, it could last a lot longer.
I’ve had to go back and look harder at our history. This catastrophe didn’t “sort of show up” in 2016. It gave us a couple of centuries of warning. We knew this calamity was lurking. We’ve been building towards it for our entire history.
American has done great things. We have also done horrendous and unspeakable things. We allowed slavery and we’ve never recovered from its taint. We slaughtered the Natives who lived here and pretend we didn’t.
We have, as most countries do, glossed over the worst parts of our history and focused on the good stuff. We have pretended our failures never happened or really weren’t that bad. We have held ourselves up as a beacon of light to other countries but behaved more like a flashlight with failing batteries.
We need to do a lot better.
One of the many important things Obama said his final speech was although we made progress, we assumed progress meant we left “the bad stuff” behind and moved on. That isn’t what happened. Even when our better selves dominated, the ugly history remained stuck. We never addressed the issue of race. We have yet to give Natives an even break.
We fought our Civil War more than 150 years ago and although the battles stopped, the war never ended. Now that we have a straight-out racist as president, it has become painfully obvious how deeply rooted our hatred goes. It needs to change economically, educationally, and culturally.
We forget how we became the world’s major industrial power. We built our economy on the bombed-out remnants of Europe and Japan following two devastating wars. We fought, but the fighting was never on our shores. Think about Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Then imagine how different this country would be if both world wars had been fought in this country, on this continent. Who would be the great industrial power then?
This is our time to consider who we want to become. Unless we make a hard and gritty determination to not just say we are great but to also be great, we will be lost to history, a blip on the timeline.